United States Energy Policy Simulator Updated With Ability to Reach Net-Zero Emissions, New Policies, More Fuels

By Megan Mahajan

Energy Innovation has launched its largest-ever update to the United States Energy Policy Simulator (EPS), our open-source and peer-reviewed computer model that estimates the environmental, economic, and health impacts of hundreds of climate and energy policies.

EPS version 2.0 adds dozens of updates and improvements, including exciting new features and policy options to give users even more control in designing U.S. climate strategies. This update now unlocks more decarbonization options than ever before, even enabling users to design scenarios with net-zero emissions.

The full list of model updates can be found online, but some of the most important new features are detailed below.

EPS improvements: New fuels, imports and exports, hydrogen, electric vehicles

The EPS now includes five new fuels – crude oil, heavy/residual fuel oil, LPG/propane/butane, municipal solid waste, and hydrogen, along with the technologies that use these fuels across different sectors. These features more accurately represent U.S. energy use, while also enabling exciting new policies.

Policy levers to promote hydrogen vehicle sales and fuel shifting to hydrogen now unlock abatement potential in otherwise hard to reach sectors like heavy transportation and industrial fuel use.

Industry fuel use, including hydrogen

Industrial fuel use under a policy scenario. Note the expansion of hydrogen due to industrial fuel switching policies.

The update also refined our modeling of electric vehicles (EVs) with two important updates:

  1. We incorporated research on how consumer “range anxiety,” or fear that EV range will be insufficient for long trips, impacts purchasing behavior, and built in a policy lever to reduce range anxiety.
  2. We included a policy to promote EV adoption by building out charging infrastructure. Our business-as-usual case projects that six percent of passenger light-duty vehicles will be electrified by 2030, but this number surges to 40 percent by 2050. Added to the existing EV sales mandate policy lever, users now have a range of policy options to bolster EV deployment further than the business-as-usual projection.

The EPS now tracks imports and exports, how policy-driven changes in U.S. fuel demand affect fuel production and imports, and more detailed cash flows – who pays who more or less for goods and services. Users can now see how their selected policies impact government, labor and consumers, foreign entities, non-energy industries, and a variety of energy suppliers.

Policy costs and savings, Energy Policy Simulator

The EPS now handles cash flows in a more sophisticated way.

EPS improvements: Animal-based products, the water-energy nexus, carbon pricing

The EPS already tracked emissions of 12 different pollutants to carefully assess how policies can mitigate environmental and human health impacts. But energy production has additional environmental implications – in 2005, U.S. thermoelectric power plants withdrew four times as much water as all U.S. residents. The EPS now tracks water withdrawals and consumption by power plants, enhancing the model’s reporting on environmental impacts.

Water use in power plants

Business-as-usual water consumption by power plants.

EPS 2.0 also adds a policy to reduce demand for animal products, which can significantly cut agricultural emissions. Moving away from emissions-intensive meat and dairy consumption toward a plant-based diet is gaining momentum worldwide, and users now have the flexibility to explore how such a shift will impact agricultural production practices and therefore emissions.

The recent model update also expanded the options for carbon pricing, an important part of many policy packages. Users now have better control on which emissions they target with a carbon price, as they can specify whether to price only carbon dioxide or all GHGs, or whether to price industrial process (non-energy) emissions. The carbon price also now drives reductions in industrial process emissions when these are toggled to be covered, in addition to driving reductions in fuel use. The model also includes a Python script that allows users to simulate a cap-and-trade policy rather than a carbon tax, adding additional flexibility.

EPS improvements: Net-zero emissions

The updates listed above, among many other improvements, enable users to build scenarios with net-zero emissions. While previous EPS versions could approach net-zero, the latest update builds in the additional flexibility to tackle the last, hardest-to-reach sectors of the economy – especially industrial fuel use, freight transportation, and agriculture.


Net-zero emissions scenario, Energy Policy Simulator

CO2e emissions reductions by policy in Energy Innovation’s recommended net-zero scenario.

The updated EPS not only enables deeper decarbonization, but offers a clearer picture of how policy impacts U.S. energy production and use, technology adoption, environmental impacts, and spending than ever before.

Users can now view Energy Innovation’s recommended policy scenarios and build their own at https://us.energypolicy.solutions/.